Health

Local Veteran Shares Story of Kidney Transplant and Importance for Minorities

National health statistics show that minorities comprise about 60 percent of those currently on the United States organ transplant list, yet, in 2019, only 32 percent of donors were from those communities.
Health officials note that, while donors and recipients are not matched based on race or ethnicity, the chances of finding a match and having a successful transplant are increased when both are closely matched in terms of shared genetic background.
The gap must be closed, health experts say. That’s why Desert Storm Veteran and Owings Mills, Md. resident Daronta Briggs and The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) are pushing the essential message to people in communities of color that, during August, National Minority Donor Awareness Month, more organ donors are needed.
“Organ tissue donation is so important for minorities. It’s important to promote the idea of those become organ donors so that they can help those in need,” said Briggs, who was diagnosed in 2008 with end-stage renal disease.
Briggs received a kidney transplant in October 2012 and said he “feels like new money now.”
UNOS officials noted that Briggs was one of 28 individuals in 2012 to receive a kidney transplant at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. That year, 16,487 such operations occurred in America.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, African Americans represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population, but more than 35 percent of all patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure.
Sixty percent of those currently on the U.S. transplant waiting list are minorities, with more than 32,000 being African American.
“You have to have a positive mindset and understand what it means to be an organ tissue donor,” Briggs stated.
“It makes a difference in someone’s life and allows them to have a second chance. I’m a big advocate of UNOS and my own nonprofit called the Veterans Transplantation Association.”
Brigg started his nonprofit four years ago and has started donor matching program for veterans currently on dialysis. “I want to give back to the veterans and my community, and this is how I feel I should,” he said.
Born in Hampton, Va., Briggs served in the U.S. Army during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s. When he was being screened for health issues during his discharge process, he realized he had problems. “I had protein in my urine, some kidney issues, and I had hypertension,” Briggs stated.
However, it wasn’t until nearly two decades later when he realized how much his health had declined.
“I was told I needed to start dialysis, and it was a shock because of all of the uncertainty, and when you hear the words’ end-stage renal and dialysis,’ it was unsettling,” he said.
At the time of his diagnosis, Briggs had worked in the Virginia Department of Corrections, and he was married with four daughters. “I had to tell my daughters who I needed to take care of, and I had to tell my human resources supervisor that I couldn’t work anymore,” Briggs recalled.
He was also told it would take at least six years to get a new kidney. In 2010, he learned of a special program for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center that allowed his transplant to occur after just a two-year wait.
“I became motivated and, during dialysis, which happened three days a week from 8 a.m. to noon, I’d stay awake and read, and I even wrote a book,” Briggs said.
“I wanted to be aware of my surrounding and prepared. I wanted to be able to use this experience to help others.”
“With medicine now and, despite the side effects, I have a better quality of life, and I’m able to do the things that I wanted to do before but couldn’t because I was on dialysis,” he said.
“I want to be able to share my story with others and help others. I’m a minority, and I want other minorities to understand that they can do this. They can donate organ tissue, and they can be recipients.”
For more information about organ donation and transplants, visit www.unos.org.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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